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‘Love, Death + Robots Vol. 2’ review: Upping the ante with jarring themes, and Michael B. Jordan

Eight shorts. Eight animation styles. Thirteen directors. Eighty-two minutes. That is all it takes to enjoy Love, Death + Robots, David Fincher’s adult animated series of which the first season in March 2019 made such a splash, reviewers and fans alike are still unravelling the heavy themes of misogyny, death, time loops, and technology to this day.

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The new set of short films come from filmmakers around the world: ‘Pop Squad’ (Jennifer Yuh Nelson), ‘Life Hutch’ (Alex Beaty), ‘Ice’ (Robert Valley), ‘The Tall Grass’ (Simon Otto), ‘Automated Customer Service’ (Meat Dept), ‘All Through the House’ (Elliot Dear), ‘The Drowned Giant’ (Tim Miller who gave us the first season’s ‘Ice Age’) and ‘Snow in the Desert’ (Leon Berelle, Dominique Boidin, Remi Kozyra, Maxime Luere who gave us the first season’s ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift’).

Obsession and curiosity are a common thread tying many of the episodes together. ‘The Drowned Giant’, ‘The Tall Grass’, ‘Pop Squad’, ‘Ice’, ‘Automated Customer Service’ and ‘All Through The House’ each explore humanity’s greed for more: more life, more knowledge, more power, more excitement.

Genocide and racism are explored in new ways in the second volume; ‘Snow in the Desert’ is centred on an ostracised and ageless albino who is hunted constantly, while ‘Pop Squad’ delves into a dystopian future where ‘unregistered offspring’ are forbidden by a totalitarian state where adults live for centuries.

Oh, the futurism

Is it truly a Love, Death + Robots experience if technology does not loom over humanity like a ready-to-drop guillotine? The darker perspective on this feature strongly in ‘Automated Customer Service’ which takes place during a time of wealthy elderly people enslaving robots, creating an odd sort of class struggle. This causes an automated vacuum-cleaning robot to turn rogue on an elderly woman and her tiny pet poodle. The animation style adds levity to the short without having it venture into predictable Black Mirror territory.

That said, it is easy to find links between Love, Death + Robots and video games. The first season’s ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift’ and season two’s Michael B Jordan-starrer ‘Life Hutch’ are much like Housemarque’s Returnal, in that the protagonist is trapped in an infinite time loop. Jordan, a known PlayStation-lover himself, shines in his role as a combat pilot re-experiencing fresh fear and pain as the arc progresses.

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My favourite episode by far is ‘The Drowned Giant’, based on the haunting parable by J G Ballard that is more sci-fi than folklore. The arc follows a small seaside town’s obsession with a mysterious giant naked human that washes ashore, and its fanatic interactions with the figure. The story is told passively through the eyes of a scientist. Love, Death + Robots placing this as the last episode is quite strategic as it leaves plenty of room for afterthought. It speaks volumes about our penchant for fads and temporary shock value — as the start, the giant has a Greek hero-like profile but as he decays, the ugliness is revealed.

Though there are fewer shorts in Love, Death + Robots Vol. 2, the diversity of storytelling and visuals are still impactful. The second volume is perhaps slightly more socially aware than the first; each episode addresses the flawed and repeated human behaviours of which we are all guilty. This series is not for the light-hearted but it sure is entertaining from start to finish.


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 2:43:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/love-death-robots-netflix-series-volume-two-2021-exploring-obsession-isolation-social-issues-michael-b-jordan/article34557628.ece

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